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The Drug Addiction Stigma is Greater Than the Stigma of Mental Illness

The drug addiction stigma faced by substance abusers is greater than what is faced by individuals who suffer from a mental illness according to the results of a recent survey. This stigma is due to drug abuse being viewed as a moral failing. The survey included more than 700 individuals across the entire United States, and the results may surprise some people. A majority of the survey takers tended to view drug addiction as a personal vice and that accounted for the drug addiction stigma. The same respondents viewed mental illness as a treatable medical condition. The study was performed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The nation wide survey also revealed that individuals are not as likely to approve of services which help those with a drug addiction, such as housing, employment, and insurance assistance.

According to lead drug addiction stigma study researcher associate professor Colleen Barry, “While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition. In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one’s struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal.”According to Beth McGinty, who co-authored the drug addiction stigma study, “The more shame associated with drug addiction, the less likely we as a community will be in a position to change attitudes and get people the help they need. If you can educate the public that these are treatable conditions, we will see higher levels of support for policy changes that benefit people with mental illness and drug addiction.”

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